Stanwick Positrac, gnomish engineer, entered the audience hall. Dressed for the occasion, he was resplendent in his finest tweeds, his collar unsullied by soot, as it had been so recently. At his side, the clockwork man was dressed equally well, it's leather armour of fine make, and showing neither dirt nor wear.
" Approach, please" came the call from the figure on the simple dias at the other end of the hall. Sitting upon the chair, a dwarf, thin by the standards of his people, long back hair and beard hanging lank about his head and shoulders. A simple iron circlet adorns his head.
" Greetings Lord Forgefire. I am Sir Stanwick Positrac of house Positrac. This is my Son, Sir Otto. I understand you have a business proposition for me? Your father speaks fondly of you."
"Does he now? The he Jarl is a good man. A fine head to the clan. Yes, indeed I do have business for you, Mr Positrac. I understand that in addition to being the head engineer of your house, you are something of a aficionado of pre-night artifacts, maps and star charts specifically?"
" You are correct, Milord. I collect such… Curiosities. Is this relevant to the conversation? I am, at this point in my career, but a humble watchmaker. I lean on my past accomplishments only when necessary."
" It is indeed, Mr Positrac"
"It's Sir Positrac. I am a knight, not an Engineer-Warrant"
The yellow eyes of the dwarf narrow to slits" Indeed. Who could forget your heroism in defeating a fully mature Red dragon and it's cohort nearly single-handedly. You, and your 'son' that is. Or when you arrived to the Empire 75 years ago, materializing the dead of night with a screech that woke the hold, streaming frost…. Of course it is relevant to the discussion. My mages, archivists, and yeomen think they have found something to the east, out in the Dust."
" But what does that have to do with…"
"They think, my dear gnome, they have located the point of origin for the Fall of Night."
Stanwick's mouth snaps shut. He rocks back on his heels and considers. "Do you know where specifically?"
"We do not. Only a general area. Maps do not work so well in that region, as I am sure you are aware."
"What is it you want from me?"
"I, and by proxy, Clan Forgefire, want you to lead an expedition to the east. Into the Dust. Find me what you can find. If it as I suspect, it will be.. lucrative. For the both of us, and for the Empire."
"What you are talking about is a gargantuan undertaking. A group of grave robbers, I mean, treasure hunters, would be at that task for years upon years. It would be far more effacious to run a rail line to the east, across the continent, search and divine as we go. It'll take time, years still, but we'll be far more able to defend this investment."
The dwarf considers the concept. "Indeed. I like this plan. It will bring glory to my clan, and my father will ask less questions, considering it to be dwarves doing great things, reclaiming the land for people and empire. There is also many a gnoll tribe for the warriors to whet their appetites, and wet their axe blades. Consequently, you are indeed to say nothing to the Jarl about this. Security concerns and what have you. I understand you have an adoptive Niece, Elliwick. I'm commandeering her service and making her tour lieutenant in this endeavour. It would be… A Shame for something to happen to her, Sir Positrac. Don't disappoint me. My seneschal will supply you with the necessary list of contacts and letters of authority. You may go."
Stunned, Stanwick stands for a moment, then snaps to, a fierce gleam in his frost blue eyes" Yes, Milord". He bows, turns, and makes his exit. Otto, the clockman, regards the dwarven Lord through lenses of amber topaz, his face a mask of impassive alabaster. With the slightest of clicks, he bows as well, before following his father to duties that lie ahead.